Muslim marriage ruling welcomed

2013-10-26 08:00


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Johannesburg - The Women's Legal Centre (WLC) welcomed a ruling on Friday by the Western Cape High Court in Cape Town recognising a woman married through Muslim rites as her late husband's legal spouse.

"This judgment is a step forward in having Muslim marriages legally recognised," WLC director Jennifer Williams said in a statement.

The case involved a woman who married a Muslim man in a ceremony which was not officiated by a marriage officer.

This meant that in terms of civil law, the couple was not married.

The husband subsequently annulled the marriage under Islamic rite, but the couple later resumed sexual relations.

According to the tenets of Islam, this meant that the annulment, called a Talaq, was no longer valid.

The man died on 4 March 2010, months after the couple's second child was born.

The man's adult son from a prior marriage then forced the woman out of their home.

The woman was initially made executrix of the man's estate, but the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) issued a certificate declaring that the marriage had been annulled.

The husband's daughter from a prior marriage appointed an attorney as executrix of the estate.

The MJC later issued a letter in which it said new evidence had come to light indicating that the couple was married at the time of the man's death.

The attorney then obtained affidavits from the man's son, denying that the couple had reconciled.

The widow approached the court seeking, among other things, to be recognised as the man's legal spouse and for the attorney to be removed as executrix of the estate.

The court ruled on Friday that the woman be granted the status of legal spouse and the attorney be removed as executrix, with no entitlement to remuneration.

The court found there had been considerable delays in the promulgation of the Muslim marriages bill, dealing with the legal intricacies of such marriages.

However, it was believed that the bill, in its current form, would soon be placed on the legislative programme.

Williams said: "The passing of the Muslim marriages bill is long overdue, and it is, more often than not, women and children who suffer due to the state's failure to pass the law.

"This judgment is a step forward in having Muslim marriages legally recognised," she said.

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